How to Get Sales and Marketing Operating as One Team

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We’re all familiar with the divide between sales and marketing. They often feel like they live on separate islands. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why I interviewed Heidi Melin (@heidimelin), CMO at Workfront on how to get sales and marketing operating as one team.

Brian: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Heidi: Absolutely. I’m a career CMO.

I’ve been in marketing for my entire career, having started really on the advertising side, but mostly focused on fast-growing software businesses.

So, I have recently in the last year joined Workfront and I am the CMO at Workfront.

How can sales and marketing operate as one team

Well, throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work well with some sales teams, and I’ve also learned my fair share at working with sales teams and marketing teams that don’t align very well.

Moreover, so all those lessons learned include things like ensuring that the goals are aligned and ensuring that the marketing team has the same goals as the sales team.

And indeed, the marketing team tends to have a broader view of the marketplace on a longer-term view. But the immediate term goals must be aligned.

So being aligned on lead generation or demand goals with the sales teams are critical.

We talk about it inside Workfront as one view of the truth because so many times we’ve all probably sat in meetings with sales and marketing executives and you spend most of the meeting arguing about whether or not the number is right instead of diagnosing what we need to work on to improve.

So, ensuring that you’re working on a common set of numbers is hard.

It sounds straightforward, but it’s hard.

And so that’s one of the things that I think is the key to success–ensuring that measurement and all the programmatic, as well as the process-oriented partnership between sales and marketing, is aligned because it’s one business process.

One business process focused on revenue

The way that I think about it is marketing and sales historically have been thought of as two separate business processes; we talk about it as a critical handoff.

But the way that I think about it is that it’s one business process, and inside a company, it’s really focused on the revenue of your business.

It starts from the time that a marketing team targets a specific customer or prospect, and they raise their hand and ask for more information or engage all the way through to close business. So, it’s one business process, not two separate business processes.

And, oh, by the way, it’s aligned to something way more important than a sales team or a marketing team: it’s aligned to how a buyer buys your product.

And we forget that sometimes, we’re like, “Oh, well the marketing process does this…”

I’m like, oh no, no, no.

We’re just trying to facilitate a buying process.

Flip your focus on the customer

Heidi: Yeah, and so when you flip that, and you look at the focus on the customer, all of sudden marketing and sales from an outreach, from an engagement perspective, has one unified goal, which is to move a buyer through a buying process.

And when you have that change of mindset that becomes important.

I’ve worked in businesses where we focus cleanly on that critical handoff, and that handoff is the most vital piece. And frankly, it’s an essential piece, but it’s not the crucial piece.

Heidi: Yeah, it should support, and we have the tools to help that entire life cycle.

When I first joined Workfront one of the things that we did was as soon as we handed off an opportunity to the sales team, it was like, we’re out, we’re done, check, we’re finished.

Frankly, there are so many tools in a marketing toolkit that we can align with a selling motion and be more successful in helping to nurture prospects through a buying process.

To me, that has been an evolution that has been enabled by technology and is one that is critical in ensuring that sales and marketing are aligned.

Brian: As we talk about this whole idea of alignment, and you brought up measurements sounds easier said than done to get marketing and sales to agree on what common goals and measures are.

How to get sales and marketing using the same numbers

Heidi: I think it must start a big picture and really understanding targets and targets by sales teams and working backward from there.

Because if we realize that as our goal, our goal from a marketing perspective is undoubtedly to raise awareness for the business and drive demand for the business.

Our goal is to drive revenue for the business. And so, we can all understand our revenue goals and then the steps that we all need to take to get there.

So, to meet our revenue goals, backing out of that, what kind of demand generation volumes do we need to have to achieve those revenue goals.

We then agree with the sales team not only on what we are going to use as our qualification criteria, how we are going to evaluate whether or not a lead is indeed a good lead or a bad lead.

Also, ensuring that, from a volume perspective, the marketing team is lined up to support the revenue goals of the company.

So, backing it out from revenue is critical.

And we’ve all been in situations where there’s a pendulum swing that goes from, “The leads are terrible, and we’re getting way too many of them” to “The leads are high quality, but we’re not getting enough of them.”

That’s a constant balancing act with engaging with the sales team. And there may be reasons to shift or change a qualification criterion based on the maturity of a field sales organization or a time during the market, like during market seasonality. There are lots of reasons to make those changes, and you can’t do that in a vacuum.

What works to remove barriers of teamwork?

Heidi: You must go back to the customer, and you must understand the buying process of a customer.

And if you can look at the buying process of your customer and map that out to not only the activities and programs that you engage with to move that prospect or customer through a buying cycle but understand how it maps to a sales process, is essential.

So, if you can get to a place where you can map out the buying process from the time someone raises their hand or engages in some way through to closing business and revenue.

Also, understand how the customer or the buyer operates during that and how that maps to our internal process, you can actually really demonstrate where marketing adds value and where sales is adding value and where both of us add value.

Heidi: That’s where you can look at language and metrics and ensure that at each stage, you have the right metrics that you all agree on and the right language that you’re using to describe.

You must go back to, “how does your customer buy your product?”

If you don’t know that process and you don’t know how your marketing programs or your sales teams operate aligned to that, then you’re missing a big piece.

Brian: What have you found that works or what advice might you have for someone who would like actually to go back to that beginning?

Is it journey mapping? Is it interviewing customers?

What are the steps you would recommend?

Understanding how your customer buys

Source: Journey map based on what they are doing, thinking, feeling via markempa

Heidi: I think that there is nothing more valuable than interviewing customers that have just been through that process.

As marketers, we don’t always have as much engagement directly with customers as I think we should.

So, sitting down with customers that have just gone through a sales cycle, understanding the process that they went through, really listening to what their needs are and starting to look at that; you see commonalities for how customers buy whatever product it is.

Then taking that, making some assumptions, standardizing it, and then mapping it to internal processes.

I know we just did this recently at Workfront and we learned a lot.

One of the most valuable things that we learned is that there were stages that we weren’t touching.

We weren’t touching the buyer in the buying cycle, and we were getting them to engage, but then we weren’t continuing that conversation in a way that helped move them forward or we weren’t providing the kind of nurture programs that we could in the early stages of the sales cycle.

Spend time listening to how customers buy

Just taking the time to step back, and to spend time with customers, listen to how they buy is the place to start.

It’s excellent practice for marketing teams to do that work and creates many synergies with the sales team because many times the criticism of a sales team is that they’re on the front lines. They’re the ones on the phone; they’re the ones in person talking to customers.

And a common criticism is that the marketing team is sitting in a back room somewhere developing programs and campaigns and not listening and touching customers.

So, having and leading that discussion with a sales organization is beneficial because it demonstrates the engagement that we all need to have with those customers as they go through a buying process.

Brian: I’m so glad you brought this up because I do find that, to your point, for the most part, marketers often do get isolated, especially in B2B, because salespeople are usually having more conversations or sales development reps are or whomever. And so, what you’re saying is, get this buyer insight and from that marketers will have a different perspective.

Marketing must understand the customer perspective

Heidi: That’s correct. It brings a different level of perspective, and it also takes away from where marketing teams can sometimes get stuck which is in activity-driven programs where they’re doing just a lot of programs that are generating volume and activity but not necessarily moving the ball forward.

So, paying attention to how we can do things at different points in time to move the ball forward is awesome. It also gives them a broader perspective of not just stopping when that lead is handed over, like, we’re done.

Marketing’s done, marketing’s green, we’re good. Yes, taking responsibility for that portion of it, but our job doesn’t stop there.

And so really stepping back to from the customer perspective is a way to do that.

Mapping the entire customer lifecycle

I think the first step is really to sit down and map it out together, and you must start somewhere.

So, I’m a true believer in, in beginning with a rough idea based on customer insight of what that buying process looks like through the life cycle and not stopping just at revenue but looking at how do we continue to engage those customers.

Because in the case of Workfront, like many businesses, we have a land and expand strategy where that relationship with customers continues well beyond that first sale.

Review and refine the customer lifecycle as a team

So, understanding that all the way through and having a sort of the first pass and then sitting down as a senior leadership team and really refining it together, both the sales and the marketing team members, is really valuable because then you start to share a language, as we talked about.

You start to understand where the disconnects are.

Sometimes when you do that, there are insights that you uncover that you thought, “Oh my gosh, they thought we were doing this, and we thought they were doing this and no one’s doing it. We have this big gap.” And it gives you much visibility.

To me, that is an extremely valuable exercise, and it doesn’t have to be perfect either.

People talk about journey mapping, and they spend months and months and sometimes years on mapping that journey.

To me, if you can get a basic journey down and map your business process to it, you’re going to be much farther ahead than most companies, and the quicker you can move on that, the better.

Revenue team meetings include finance and operations

Heidi: Then, you refine it over time. One of the most valuable tools that I have used in my career is when you bring together the sales team, the marketing team, and the finance team together as a revenue team and you solve problems within that group, things get a lot easier.

To me, that’s one of the tools that I have that I think is beneficial because we must all be operating as a team. That’s the only way that you can get away from, “Marketing’s not doing what they’re supposed to do” or “those salespeople aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

We have a weekly revenue team meeting at Workfront, and that includes our CFO, our head of sales, and me as well as folks on the operations team.

We go through a standard set of metrics. We have one view of the truth, and then we also go through and tackle challenges that we may have, for example, we see this in our pipeline: how do we tackle that issue? What’s the right way to do that? And that combination of people; we’re all addressing the problem.

It’s not a marketing problem; it’s not a sales problem; it’s not a finance problem: it’s a revenue team problem. So, shared ownership issues.

Make sure marketing campaigns are known and agreed upon by sales

I think the strength of sales enablement programs is tremendous. So, as you look at developing marketing campaigns, ensuring the inclusiveness of those campaigns with the BDR, ADM, inside sales function, as well as with the sales and sales leadership teams and ensuring engagement and alignment.

Because to me, that is one of the most valuable pieces of communication: ensuring that the campaigns that we’re investing a company’s money in are well understood and agreed upon by the sales organization so they can support them as they continue through a buying process.

And ensuring that it isn’t just about developing a campaign to identify a lead and a qualified sales opportunity and stopping there. Instead, developing the campaign and enabling the field representatives, whether they be on the phone or in person, to carry those same messages forward and giving them the tools to do that.

That is one thing that I feel strongly about. One of the areas that can be frustrating is when a sales and marketing team isn’t working as well together.

Focus campaign development on the entire buying process

If the sales team is like, “I don’t understand or know the campaigns that you’re running in my territory…”

There’s no excuse for that anymore.

We have a technology that enables that today, and we have common systems and platforms that we’re using, whether it be a marketing automation platform or a CRM platform. There’s no excuse.

So, to me, that’s a really important part that marketing has responsibility for is ensuring that campaign development is not only informed but also supported through the buying process.

Brian: That’s great. And what I was wondering is, we talked about sales enablement, what other advice might you have to marketers and listeners out there who want to improve operating as one team?

Creating shared goals and standard key metrics

Heidi: I would say aligned and shared goals.

That is certainly something that a common set of key metrics that the entire team is looking at and that it’s not metrics by team or by channel. It’s metrics for the marketing organization that we all play a role in.

That, to me, is extremely important.

Providing visibility into programs

Also, ensuring that there’s visibility to the work that’s going on in the business.

Not to be self-serving, but that’s one of the places that Workfront actually helps us a lot is that we can see what everyone else is working on.

And that is a really valuable tool to ensure alignment and also ensure better use of our investment dollars, so we’re not overlapping with each other, or working against each other. And so, the visibility into the programs that we’re investing in at a very detailed level is an essential part of working together as an organization with a common goal.

How technology is impacting marketing today

Well, marketing has changed so much.

That’s such a loaded question because you look at over my tenure, not just at Workfront, but over my career, the technology that we have at our fingertips today as a marketer is overwhelming.

So, one of the skills that I think it is really important for marketing leaders across marketing organizations regardless of B2B, B2C, doesn’t matter, is to understand technology and the impact that technology has on your business process and understanding where technology can help you solve problems, and look at technology to support business process, not to drive it.

The reason why I say that is because I’ve worked in many organizations where there are so many tools out there that will solve problems.

It’s really easy to say, “We have this problem, let’s go get this tool.”

I call this “that-tool-itis,” and we’ve had our fair share of it.

I’ve seen that certainly Workfront as well as at other companies that I’ve worked for but understanding at a deeper level how the technology can support your business and your business goals is a critical skill.

The impact of digital transformation

That speaks to digital transformation. You think about marketing as one of the organizations in an enterprise that has been digitally transformed.

We do marketing so differently, today than we did ten years ago, so digital transformation has really driven lots of change, not just in marketing, but in departments, in large enterprises. They’re always changing and having to adapt the way they work.

To me, that is sort of the most significant change that’s going on in the industry today is, as companies, no company on the planet would say, “We’re not going to transform digitally.”

Companies must keep up today.

However, it happens department by department, marketing being on the early end, but it’s changing the way knowledge-workers work in any organization, and to me, that’s the hardest thing to keep up with.

Brian: I think many listeners are nodding as you’re speaking to this right now that we deal with every day. So, with all this technology, how do you see empathy or customer empathy fitting in?

Where does empathy fit into marketing?

Heidi: Well, I think that it is an area that has probably been overlooked.

As marketers, especially, have adopted technology, it’s become all about the data; it’s become about the analytics, it’s become about the numbers.

So, we’ve forgotten that there’s a customer on the receiving end and that it isn’t just about the numbers.

It’s about tying to the emotions and how a customer feels as they go through a buying process and being deliberate about ensuring that messaging is targeting people is hard.

It’s one of those things that I think many companies have forgotten in this age of digital transformation, this age of an overwhelming amount of data.

The marketing job has become a data-centric job, not a people-centric job and I think that it needs to balance out.

I think both are critically important because of the concept that it’s people, even in a B2B setting.

You’re not selling to companies, you’re selling to people.

Unlocking the insights, the emotional triggers that people have is how you’re going to move things forward and how you can use technology to support that versus just using technology as an enabler.

So, I think it’s gotten lost as marketing’s gone from almost 100% art to really science-based.

We’ve forgotten the people component, and that’s something that we must layer back in.

And the companies that are doing well are the ones that have done that successfully.

You may also like:

4 ways to adopt human-centered marketing and get better results

The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue

31 ways to improve marketing-sales alignment quickly

3 Good Questions to Align B2B Marketing, Sales, and Strategy

How Sales Hustle and Automation Can Hurt Customer Experience

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, and the B2B Lead Blog which is read by thousands each week. Brian also founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,600+ members.

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